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teaching reading and writing, is that still unschooling?

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

So I do some "schoolwork" with my kids every day. My four-year-old loves the activity books and she does them for fun. My 7 year-old is learning how to read and we practice every day. I can't wait for her to be able to read so she can learn all the fun things that are out there. My husband and I both LOVE reading and go to the library all the time.

 

I also do writing with my seven-year-old. She is the artistic type that loves to draw so I am combining both. She created a book for Grandma and was very proud of it. And she has learned so much because of it. She is much more confident in sounding out words and her writing is so much more legible. Much neater than I ever wrote as a kid. :-)

 

I don't do anything else school wise. We go to the library a lot and the kids choose books. My four-year-old is into wild cats and knows all sorts of things about them. My older one likes to just look at princess books and Garfield. She also plays the piano and my four-year-old does tumbling.

 

I wonder if this is still considered unschooling, because we do reading and writing on a regular basis. Melanie likes doing it and she enjoys her progress, but doesn't usually ask to start with it...

post #2 of 32

If it is you who decided that daily work on reading and writing is something worthwhile, then no, I wouldn't say you're unschooling. That doesn't mean you're not doing some awesome child-led, home-based learning that is joyful and productive. 

 

It can be a fine line. My kids have sometimes asked me to find some structured resources and initiate three-times-a-week work in whatever that resource is. The day-to-day result is the same: my kids are participating in academic work that I initiate, and are enjoying the work and their progress. The only difference is that in my case my children have made an entirely autonomous decision in requesting that structure. Whether the distinction has any real significance likely varies from family to family, but I think most unschoolers would agree that that autonomy is the fine line between unschooling and not. 

 

Miranda

post #3 of 32

My kids work on "writing" every week because they ask to send letters to their out of state relatives. At this point I do most of the writing but my 4.5 year old is starting to say, "let me write ____ cause I know that word."

 

I would prefer not writing letters to these whack jobs, because they aren't my family but I'm trying to be supportive. :)

 

Given that you are choosing the work and assigning it to your kids, that's probably not exactly unschooling. But don't marry yourself to unschooling. It's ok to be an eclectic relaxed homeschooler too. :)

post #4 of 32

Why would the label be more important than giving your children access to what they need and enjoy?

post #5 of 32

Are you wanting to stay close to unschooling principles?  Or are you simply to define what you are already doing?

 

I agree that a child's willing participation and enjoyment is prime, no matter whether you are sticking with "straight-forward" unschooling or some kind of relaxed/eclectic style.

 

If you want to follow the unschooling path more closely, I would make sure (however you choose to manage this) that children this age are aware that learning isn't just what happens when they work in their workbooks.  I think that is the only "danger" (for lack of a better word) in delving too deeply in academic-style learning at young ages, even when a child is a fully on board with the activities.  IMO, knowing that learning can happen everywhere, at any time, in traditional and untraditional ways is supremely important.  And, that academic knowledge is not inherently more important than what they learn with their hands.  I always imagine that young kids can pick up these subtle cues simply by when a parent chooses to offer their one-on-one attention.

 

Anyway, some musings in case you were doing more than simply wondering where you fit.

post #6 of 32

I don't know if this could be helpful in terms of sorting out your thought processes, but I'll tell you why we don't call ourselves unschoolers.

 

In essence, I am not happy for my kids to do anything they want or nothing. I'm happy to be extremely child led. I'm happy for my kids to largely decide what they want to learn. I'm happy for them to decide how they want to learn it. But I have certain bottom lines. I do want my kids reading by around age 8 and to have basic handwriting and spelling skills and have read/be familiar with a range of books. I want my kids to have covered the basics of mathematics, ideally by around age 12. I want them to have basic social skills and manners. I want them to have some appreciation of history and science. I am extremely flexible about how they learn this. For example, my older two basically seem to be picking up spelling, as well as science and history, by reading and watching the odd documentary. I did teach my oldest to read but he was miserable about not reading and struggled in typical dyslexic fashion, I didn't teach my others and they have so far picked it up and are picking it up. The only thing we do regularly is math, and tbh my kids really like math (my partner is a mathematician and we are a sciency family) so I could probably even argue that that was child-led. And we do lots of fun math. I am sure I could blog our lives to make us sound unschooly but that would not be the point.

 

I feel that my kids have quite a lot of freedom to choose what they learn, but they don't have the choice to learn nothing, and they specifically do not have the choice to be unable to read, do basic maths, or not to learn social skills or knowledge that I personally consider important to being part of our culture. An unschooler, to me, is someone who has that trust not only that their kids will learn what they need to learn, but more fundamentally, that if they do not learn to do things that their parents would normally consider really important then that is ok. I don't have that. To be honest, dropping by my house a lot of the time people probably might assume we were unschoolers, but I would not ever claim to be, because at the end of the day, while I will give my kids a lot of educational freedom, this is because I actually believe it to be in certain areas a superior way to achieve what are MY, not my kids' educational goals. I do not say to my kids, "you MUST do this by age x". I do not force them to sit and work. When I really feel strongly that they need to learn something, and they disagree, I have a conversation with them and attempt to convince them. But at the end of the day, if the were illiterate at age 10 I'd do something about it, and to my mind having those hard limits is what makes me not an unschooler.

 

To give a concrete example. I believe that by age seven kids need to have a range of prereading skills in order to become good, enthusiastic, fluent readers and premath skills to be good at math. Unless my kids show an interest, I don't push reading, phonics etc at all til they are about seven. I prefer they spend their time playing, being read to, drawing etc. So my educational approach to age seven is very much an unschooling-like one. But this is actually because I think that at this age kids will be drawn to and develop the skills that they need pretty much of their own accord, and anything more structured is really a diversion. (that's a simplification-its also partly that I think childhood is short and I want them to really enjoy it). So I am kind of using the techniques of unschooling with a pedagogical aim of my own. Which to me can never, philosophically, be unschooling, and I'd never want to claim it was because I think it would be quite insulting to proper unschoolers.

 

I don't know how much sense that makes. Please understand too that I am in no way making a criticism of unschooling. I think its a great approach, just one that I don't have the nerve to do. What I'm trying to say is that I think unschooling is a deep philosophical position, rather than an educational approach. Incidentally, I could be wrong here as most of my information about unschooling does come from the internet and also having read every single one of Holt's books including his collected letters-round here, hardcore unschooling is really fairly unusual. I'm aware that there are different shades of unschooling and I don't want to suggest that any one is less valid than the others. If anyone thinks I've misunderstood the nature of unschooling, you are probably right.

 

By the way, I totally agree with the poster who said think about what your kids need and don't worry about labels. 

 


Edited by Fillyjonk - 1/15/13 at 9:38am
post #7 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

So I am kind of using the techniques of unschooling with a pedagogical aim of my own. Which to me can never, philosophically, be unschooling, and I'd never want to claim it was because I think it would be quite insulting to proper unschoolers.

 

I don't know how much sense that makes.

Nicely put.  I found it made perfect sense.  It is easy for me to use the term "unschooling" to describe what we do, but my kids have been mostly on-target with their academics, and not of the age where being behind is worrisome anyhow.  

post #8 of 32

thanks ss

 

I also would never make a judgement about whether anyone else was doing something that was REALLY unschooling. I don't mean to suggest that anyone who considers themselves an unschooler really isn't. I just know that I could not honestly claim to adhere to the principles behind unschooling and so it would feel dishonest for me to do so. If I thought it wasn't working for my kids, I'd do things differently, which to me means I am using it as a technique rather than having a philosophy. Like I say though, I'm aware that there are different types of unschoolers and would hate to suggest that any were less valid than another.

post #9 of 32
I don't have time to do more than a quick read, so I apologize if I got something wrong here.

It is still homeschooling, even if it isn't unschooling. By that I mean, the label is less important than the question "is this working for us?" If the answer is "yes", keep doing it. If "no", tweak it. It's that simple.
post #10 of 32

I'm going to muddy the waters a little, I think, because I put a different spin on Fillyjonk's points. 

 

I expect my kids to be able to read well by age 9 or 10. I want them to have basic math skills by age 12. I don't want them to choose to learn nothing at all. I want them to be curious capable learners. I do have these basic expectations for them. Would I be comfortable if my kids grew up illiterate and ignorant? No, of course not! In that sense I'm exactly the same as Fillyjonk: I expect my kids to become capable and knowledgeable adults.

 

However, in my own case these expectations are not directives. They're not expectations in the sense of me saying "I expect you to spend this morning cleaning your room," a requirement that I am insisting upon. They're expectations in the sense of "I expect the sun to rise tomorrow." Statements of the near inevitability of certain events. My belief in these near-inevitabilities is what makes me comfortable with the unschooling label. We have similar expectations, and our children's days have probably mapped out in very similar ways, we have similar hopes for our children's futures. In my case I don't have to ask myself "But what if he never learns to subtract with regrouping? Would I intervene and coerce?" and answer with a yes, because I just can't envision any way that that situation would arise. 

 

 

So yes, my kids have learned all those things and have grown up (or are growing up) curious and capable. I simply don't see how it could have been otherwise. Sure, there were times when one or the other of them would seem a little "stuck," frustrated, spinning their wheels educationally, but I didn't have to insist on certain kinds of learning. They were clearly unhappy being stuck, and wanted help getting unstuck. With a reasonably rich environment and a decent parent-child relationship there was no coercion necessary, just support. 

 

Miranda

post #11 of 32
I feel very much like Fillyjonk. I began examining/exploring unschooling because I came to believe that it is the most efficient, least painful way for my kids to learn. I do have general learning goals for them and I will be watching for red flags as we go along on our journey. I expect to intervene should there be big problems. I am not at all attached to the philosophy of it. As it turns out though, so far things are going really well and I expect no problems in the k-3 years.

Like Miranda, I feel confident that I can build an environment where my kids will thrive educationally. However, I am not sure if I would consistently remain an unschooler through our journey. I do think I will always be a proponent of mostly child led learning if not always.
post #12 of 32

Emaye you've managed to put into a few sentences what took me half a page! Thank you!

 

Moominmamna, first of all, thank you. As I understand it you are saying that the difference between unschoolers and a child-led non-unschooler is that unschoolers have expectations and confidence that they will be met. I think that is a very interesting way of putting it. 

 

The only two points I would raise really is that its not my experience that non-unschoolers necessarily use co-ercion to get their kids to do things. I don't co-erce my kids, or at least its something I work very hard not to do. I don't believe in co-ercion, not necessarily because its a bad teaching tool (though it is, I feel) but also because I feel its a really bad way to relate to other people. I'd say my approach is more to honestly state what I expect of my kids, and troubleshoot to work out the problem if there is one. I think it is possible to be highly respectful of kids, yet tell them honestly that you think that they ought to be learning x y and z. 

 

The second is regarding expectations. Now I came to child-led homeschooling after doing k-3 with my oldest as a real dyed in the wool unschooler. I'd read everything by Holt, and also grown up around unschooling families (I'm putting that label on them but looking back I think that's what they would have called themselves). To me, homeschooling was basically synonymous with this particular approach that I think it is correct to call unschooling, in essence the approach propounded by Holt specifically in GWS and so on. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I had a curve ball with my oldest who was not only dyslexic but also in a (homeschooling) environment where this became a huge self-esteem issue. I was a younger, less confident parent and I have no doubt that if this happened today, to my subsequent kids, then my approach would have been different, but I discovered from that that if my child was unhappy, and, I felt, required me to step in and take control of his learning, then I would. 

 

I do want to just say that this is a really interesting debate to me, but I am also aware that this area of the board has a role as a support forum and I really do not want to crash it and for anyone to feel I am criticising unschooling. I'm happy to, I dunno, delete my posts or whatever if anyone feels that to be an issue. 

post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

 

 

I do want to just say that this is a really interesting debate to me, but I am also aware that this area of the board has a role as a support forum and I really do not want to crash it and for anyone to feel I am criticising unschooling. I'm happy to, I dunno, delete my posts or whatever if anyone feels that to be an issue. 

I hope you don't delete.  smile.gif

 

It is funny…how you describe your environment is very similar to how I describe mine, and yet I call myself an USer. I am not married to the label, but it gives me and others a framework to describe what I do, and brainstorm when I ask for opinions.   I have come to believe that home education falls on a spectrum - from very parent centric and school like to USing.  I am much closer to USing than I am to the other end of the spectrum, so there you go.

 

I know others describe USing as more of a line - if you do this you are USing and if you do that you are not - but I find that idea a bit rigid, for lack of a better word, in real world situations.   Let's face it -does the act of inviting my daughter to do math 2 or 3 times a week for 10 minutes at a stretch mean I am not USing?  What about the other gazillion of hours in the week in which we do live as unschoolers?


Edited by kathymuggle - 1/16/13 at 11:24am
post #14 of 32
The label is not as important as the child. The term 'unschooling' is more for adults discussing their homeschooling practices, and has nothing to do with the actual learning. When I first saw this thread, I wondered who would care whether a label is 'accurate' . I'm surprised by the discussion. Maybe because I'm at the end of the homeschooling journey, but it really doesn't matter to me in the least *what* my practices are called. Mostly what we did was unschooling, with a bit of math thrown in. So what? If the OP wants to know if she can post on this forum, I'd say "go ahead". Nothing is truly perfect in this world, so why make a fuss about imperfections.
post #15 of 32

I dunno, I read the OP's post as trying to tease out what exactly unschooling is, and what its not, which is something I have really wondered about.  To me, it really is the philosophical underpinning that determines whether something is unschooling or child-led learning and I do struggle with the idea that someone providing an unschooling-style environment, but in order to meet aims of their own, is actually an unschooler. But if, as it may well be, that others disagree, and you can be an unschooler without believing in certain ideas about the sovereignty of children, that's interesting and I'm keen to understand the logic as to why. 

 

I think that the homeschooling movement has extremely interesting philosophical underpinnings, and unschooling in particular is a very distinct strand to it. I don't believe for a moment I have found the one true way to homeschool, only the best way for my family (all five of us) at this moment on our journey, and I'm always very interested in both how others do it and how they conceptualise it.

 

So yeah, I think its a very worthwhile discussion. I suppose the only thing might be is that it seems like over in America (and Canada? I don't know) the unschooling/non-unschooling divide might be a starker one than over here so might have implications for, I dunno, which group a family attended. That is not very cool IMO and I hate to think of people labelling themselves for that reason. Over here, it really is not much of an issue what kind of homeschooler you call yourself, its the homeschooling that matters.

post #16 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

The only two points I would raise really is that its not my experience that non-unschoolers necessarily use co-ercion to get their kids to do things. I don't co-erce my kids, 

 

Oh, I agree, and that's not something I meant to imply. To clarify, what I meant is that if a parent asks herself the question "If my bottom-line expectations for my kids were not being met through child-led unschooling-like means, can I say that in that case I wouldn't resort to coercion?" a non-unschooler would probably answer "If there was resistance to gentler means, then yes, I suppose I eventually would." 

 

Whereas an unschooler would say "What a silly question. That situation is never going to arise."

 

I love your contributions to this thread -- and to this forum in general. Please don't delete them!

 

Miranda

post #17 of 32
I wrote about my view on the unschooling label awhile back here: Unschooling & Meat-Eating Vegetarians

In my opinion teaching reading and writing because you feel they are important, not because the child has asked to be taught, is NOT unschooling. It's relaxed homeschooling. That's perfectly fine, of course! Nothing wrong with that, but I do think using accurate terms makes things a lot easier for everyone in the long run.
post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

 But if, as it may well be, that others disagree, and you can be an unschooler without believing in certain ideas about the sovereignty of children, that's interesting and I'm keen to understand the logic as to why. 

 

Hmmm….I  suspect most USers do believe in the sovereignty of children with regards to education.  What that looks like might vary, though.  I do think it is acceptable to invite people to activities I think they might be interested in…..and they have the right to refuse.  Do I have the right to invite people to activities I think might benefit them?  Yes, and they have the right to refuse.  That being said I rarely invite adults to activities because I think it might be good for them (that seems a little condescending with an adult). and I do invite my kids to activities I think might be good for them.  At the end of the day, I feel I do have a role in guiding my children that I do not have with  adults.   I guess my line in the sand around if something is USing or not is "do they have the right to refuse?", although I still prefer to see USing as one end of a spectrum rather than a yes/no thing.

 

I also tweak things until I find a way of delivering material that they find acceptable.  I am 99% okay with this - but there is a small part of me that occasionally wonders if I am just manipulating things to get them to do stuff that I have a vested interest in, but they may not be interested in? 

 

 

 

So yeah, I think its a very worthwhile discussion. I suppose the only thing might be is that it seems like over in America (and Canada? I don't know) the unschooling/non-unschooling divide might be a starker one than over here so might have implications for, I dunno, which group a family attended. That is not very cool IMO and I hate to think of people labelling themselves for that reason. Over here, it really is not much of an issue what kind of homeschooler you call yourself, its the homeschooling that matters.

 

For the most part, no one cares in real life in my part of the world (Canada) - or they don't express it if they do.  


Edited by kathymuggle - 1/16/13 at 1:23pm
post #19 of 32
I live in the US, and I don't care about the labels, and I don't know anyone who is homeschooling who cares, either. That debate seems to be, in my circles, among those without children and those sending their children to school who want to appear knowledgeable about homeschooling and unschooling.
post #20 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

I live in the US, and I don't care about the labels, and I don't know anyone who is homeschooling who cares, either. That debate seems to be, in my circles, among those without children and those sending their children to school who want to appear knowledgeable about homeschooling and unschooling.

And between homeschoolers and people wanting to know.... or between two homeschooling families, just meeting and getting to know one another......

 

Whether we use the labels or not..... labels are simply a convenient, succinct way of expressing a general style of homeschooling.  At least, for those of us comfortable using them.  They are not stamped in platinum.  Similar to how you might state political preferences ("liberal", e.g.), that don't really express your particular brand, but can get the point across.

 

If I wasn't online so much, or explaining to relatives the why's and what's of what we are doing, I wouldn't be using the word at all.  However, I am comfortable with labels, because they are not set-in-stone like an epitaph on a grave stone.  "Labels", like the paper kind you stick on a spice jar.  Those are handy and can be easily removed (if you don't put them first in the dishwasher and have the heat set the glue, then it's a bear to get off... soak them in cold water overnight or as long as necessary and they fall off all by themselves! orngtongue.gif)

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